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Wake up, steppe, tulips in blossom! (+Update)

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By Zeena Urynbassarova

Beautiful tulips blossom in our steppe In the middle of April. They are not from Holland, but endemic flowers and their Motherland is the steppe of Atyrau Oblast. With the first warmth of the Sun rays tulips blossom quickly and their blossom lasts from 3 to 5 days. 

Journey Notes

Tulips are the pride of the steppe. There are many other beautiful flowers and plants growing in the wilderness, but tulips are magic.

In Kazakhstan there are over 35 types of wild tulips and out of them 18 are included into the Red Book.  In Atyrau Oblast the most wide spread type is Shrenk’s tulip. 

Shrenk's tulipShrenk's tulip

When other herbs are just unfolding their tiny first leaves, tulips go forward fast and in a short instance of their celebration, they hurry to strike the whole world with their reckless beauty.

The history remembers the facts when people went crazy about tulips and it was called “tulipmania”,when people in Holland and Europe paid crazy money eqalling to their entire welath for just one tulip bulb. 

Unfortunately, from year to year the population of tulips in Atyrau Oblast is decreasing. 

And here on this very spot the government is planning to build the 2nd phase of the petro-chemical plant and the land of tulips here will be lost. Tulips, the survivors from dinosaur era are destined to be extinct in our times.

After the trip to see the tulips’ blossom we were full of emotions. 

Tulips turn the gray steppe into a beautiful carpet and their deep red and scarlet colours stand out boldly as if challenging the dullness of the early spring steppe.

Wake up, steppe!


Tulips History

The Kazakh word for tulip is “lala” and in the 12th century Russian chronicles these flowers were recorded as “lalagul”. The word “toulpan” (tulip) in Russian is derived from the Persian word “turban” meaning a head cover. The matter here is not only in the form of a flower, but also in the homeland of these flowers which is Asia. For the first time wild tulips were “cultivated” in Turkey.  In the 16th century sultans wished to have in their gardens the carpets made of live tulips of various coloring. In those days more than 1300 types of tulips were already known.

Then the hobby for growing tulips moved to Europe: to France, Denmark, Belgium and, certainly, to Holland.  In 1625 in Holland there was a real tulipmania, as doctors said, a sort of madness about tulips. Each flower grower wanted to grow its own unique tulip.

The prices also grew fabulously. For one bulb people were prepared to pay a huge sum - 2500 guldens. In those days with this money you could buy two carts of wheat, four carts of hay, four fattened bulls, and four pigs, a dozen of sheep, four barrels of beer, two barrels of butter, 500 kilograms of cheese, a bed, a suit and a silver cup!

In the 2nd half of the 17th century the city of Haarlem was the center of cultivation of tulips in Holland. In 1672 this very city declared that it will pay the award of 100 thousand guldens to the one who will manage to grow a black tulip. A well known naturalist Doctor Burl managed to grow a black tulip. He called this rare flower “Rosa Burl” (by the name of his wife) and thousands of people used to come to see that flower. However, it was not an absolutely black tulip. As experts said, the flower Burl was almost black and it had a deep dark lilac color. Even today many consider that it is impossible to grow an absolutely black tulip. At the end of the 18th century the gardeners started to grow tulips with several shades. And only in 1928 it was established that motley patterns on the tulips are the result of a virus diseases of a flower. But this disease is harmless to the plant and is causes by imbalance of its mechanism of photosynthesis.

Rude awakening

During the preparation of this material, to my shame, I learnt that we shouldn’t pick wild tulips and not because there is an administrative code forbidding to tear off rare types of plants, but also because tulips propagate by seeds and, therefore, when we tear off wild tulips we deprive them of their posterity!

I also learned that it takes 6 years for a cultivated tulip to blossom, but for a wild tulip it takes 12-15 years! From a seed sprouts a thin cylindrical leaflet that appears on a soil surface (that you won’t even notice) and underground a bulb starts to form. The next year the leaflet grows 2-3 millimeters wide. The bulb starts to develop and shoots a stalk. Only on its 12th or 15th year this flower starts to blossom for the first time. The tulip can blossom for 20-30 years if you don’t touch it! And their fate directly depends on us.




April 18 2013, 12:18

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